The Panther Valley School District has lost about 84 students to cyber schools this school year, a trend which concerns school district officials and alarms several school board directors.
Superintendent Rosemary Porembo has scheduled two meetings next week to meet with the parents of students who have left Panther Valley in order to attend the on-line schools. "I'd like to get into a discussion of why they've made that choice. Can Panther Valley do something better," she asked.
According to Porembo, there were approximately 40 students who attended a cyber school last year. "The number fluctuates," she said, "some leave, and then come back." Porembo's meetings will be held in the high school auditorium at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 15th, and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16th.
Directors are concerned about the financial impact on the district if students continue to defect to the cyber schools. Currently, the school receives $6,700 from the State per student. When a student chooses to enroll in a cyber school instead, that money gets deducted from the district's basic subsidy. The District stands to lose well over $500,000 this year.
"We lose our funding for all of those kids, how do we continue to operate,' asked Board President Jeff Markovich. Director David Hiles took issue with the state's decision to fund the private charter schools. "Why is the state funding some private schools and not others," he asked. Specifically referring to Our Lady of the Angels Academy, the Catholic school located within the District, he said, "They can't get public funding, but these schools can." Hiles requested that the District and residents voice their concerns about the situation to local legislators.
Hiles added that the District built the new middle school based on projections of enrollment. "The State doesn't allow you to build a school that's too big or half the size that you'll need, but now they're saying that kids can leave by the dozens and sit at home in their pajamas with their computers," he said.
Several other board members commented that the cyber schools do maintain high standards for students. Hiles responded, "I'm not saying the schools aren't good, I'm just saying that they shouldn't be dragging our funding out of here to pay for that."